In some huge news today, NVIDIA is now open sourcing its GPU drivers in Linux with a dual GPL/MIT license. This is starting with the R515 driver release. Many have criticized the company for not being open enough and not supporting Linux well enough, but now the drivers are officially on GitHub.
NVIDIA Open Sources GPU Drivers for Linux
Let us start with the big one, the NVIDIA kernel modules are on GitHub here.
There are some catches to this, as one would expect, but overall NVIDIA is doing something reasonable.
For data center Turing and Ampere, the open source drivers are production ready with the R515 release. On the GeForce and workstation GPU side (now that we do not have Quadro anymore), these are still alpha modules for Turing and Ampere. NVIDIA says that it will continue to improve the workstation and desktop GPU open source drivers (and presumably the data center as well.) The current plan is to phase out the closed source drivers as the quality of the open source drivers improves.
One will probably notice that this is Turing and newer. For older GPUs, the closed source drivers will still be the option.
Overall, let us be clear, this is a positive step. At the same time, it means that NVIDIA is now putting its engineering efforts into open source, and that means for those with older cards they will continue to use the closed source drivers. NVIDIA making a new feature one that is on relatively newer GPUs will probably make some of our readers unhappy, but at the same time it is also natural to invest in newer products that drive revenue (and driver support dollars.) Upstreaming the drivers will remain a challenge and one has to make a choice at the installation of installing either the closed or open source versions, but we think this is a big deal for the Linux and broader open source community.